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Monday, September 2, 2013

Birmingham’s New Library

By Team IAnD
Photography: Courtesy Mecanoo Architecten

New Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo Architecten opens on Sept.3, 2013
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Whoever said that a library is a boring silent reading room? The new library at Birmingham, which opens its doors to the public tomorrow, is a beautiful building that integrates the culturally and architecturally rich ethos of Birmingham city...

Birmingham’s new library is a transparent glass building. Nestled between the Baskerville House, a limestone building from 1938 and the REP Theatre, an optimistic concrete building from 1971, its metal filigree façade of interlocking circles, meaningfully transforms Centenary Square, the largest public square in the heart of the city into three distinct realms: monumental, cultural and entertainment.

Intended as an innovative and world-class library - the largest in Europe with an expected per-day footfall of ten thousand people, the 35,000 m2 library sports a programme of adult and children’s library, study centre, music library, community health centre, multimedia, archives, Shakespeare Memorial Room, offices, exhibition halls, cafes and lounge space, roof terraces, new shared auditorium (300 seats with neighbouring Repertory Theatre), interior design and urban plan for Centenary Square.

New Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo Architecten opens on Sept.3, 2013
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The BREEAM excellent rated building, although transparent, maintains energy efficiency through the buffering capacity of its building mass and atria. Sun shading and reflective materials within the facades block harsh rays of the sun, while allowing natural daylight into the interiors. Its delicate filigree skin is inspired by the artisan tradition of this once industrial city. Travelators and escalators dynamically placed in the heart of the library form connections between the eight circular spaces within the building. 

New Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo Architecten opens on Sept.3, 2013
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New Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo Architecten opens on Sept.3, 2013
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It’s the cross section that drives the building and is based this sequence of rotundas with the Book Rotunda at its centre. The Book Rotunda connects three floors with three main functions: the Public Library, The Discovery Terrace with the gallery and the Research Library. The Book Rotunda itself has five floors. It is an iconic space that celebrates books and can also be used for different kinds of events. These rotundas play an important role not only in the routing through the library but also provide natural light and ventilation.

New Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo Architecten opens on Sept.3, 2013
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Perceived as an extension of the street, the library’s interior journey is intended as a sequence of events and experiences, each discernible from the next. The potential for extending this concept to the exterior is expressed both in the circular outdoor amphitheatre on Centenary Square and a ‘crowning’ rotunda on top of the building, which houses the Shakespeare Memorial Room (originally designed in 1882; preserved and reinstated into this new edition).

New Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo Architecten opens on Sept.3, 2013
.

The most public functions are housed on the ground floor, which is indigenously divided into a mezzanine, a mid-lower ground floor and a mid-mid-lower ground floor in the form of gently descending terraces. Finally a spacious lower ground floor, which is extended until the edge of the train tunnel, reaches out into Centenary Square. The stepping terraces allow the soft northern light to enter deep into the interior space and the amphitheatre in the square provides yet another source of daylight penetration. The children’s library is located on this floor along with the music library. The outdoor circular amphitheatre sets the tone as a performance space. 

Fitting into the rhythm of the city, changing vistas and view lines unfold as you navigate through the building. On the lower levels the route continues below ground nearly to the train tunnel that passes in front of the building, and resurfaces in Centenary Square. At this point this interior route weaves itself with the pedestrian route revealing a piece of the inner library world to the public - an inner world with its own panorama of continuously changing shadows, dependent upon weather, time of day and seasonal expression. With its rotundas and its façade, the building is an ode to the circle:  an archetypical form that embodies universality, infinity, unity and timelessness.

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